Provincial Liberal leader Susan Holt says she supports decentralization of health care so that communities such as Sackville have more say in how local clinics and hospitals are run.
“There’s far, far too many decisions that are being made in one office in Fredericton and those decisions aren’t in touch with what’s happening on the ground,” Holt says.
“These one-size-fits-no-one policies mean that New Brunswickers aren’t getting good and relevant care at the community level.”
Holt, who was elected Liberal leader in August, made her comments as she visited Sackville on Wednesday as part of a provincial tour to learn about local issues and priorities.
“I think we need to create structures that empower local people to make decisions that affect their local services including hospitals,” she said during an interview with Warktimes.
She promised that a Liberal government would make money available to finance local decision making.
Rural Health Action Group
Holt’s comments came the day after Sackville Town Council heard a presentation from the Rural Health Action Group, a volunteer committee that has been working on restoring full services at Sackville Memorial including a 24-hour emergency room and acute-care beds for local patients.
At present, the ER operates from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. because of staffing shortages.
John Higham, co-chair of the action group, presented figures showing progress in hiring additional staff.
“We basically have pretty well all the nurses that are necessary and we do have all the LPNs [Licensed Practical Nurses] that are necessary for all of the services we had previously,” he said.
“What we do not have is enough physicians, enough family physicians and enough ER physicians and we don’t have any team health approaches as yet,” he added.
Higham said next steps should include coming up with a structure such as a local committee that would have a direct voice in decisions made by the Horizon Health Network.
“I see it working from the community up,” he said, adding that perhaps the head of the local committee could sit on the Horizon board.
Local operating rooms
Councillor Bill Evans agreed.
“There needs to be more community involvement,” he said after pointing out that at the moment, the health authority is governed by the single trustee the Higgs government appointed after dismissing the Horizon board in July.
Evans pointed to Horizon’s decision to expand surgical services at smaller hospitals including Sackville Memorial.
Evans said Horizon may have convinced the provincial government that it’s cheaper to renovate the operating rooms in Sackville instead of building new ones in Moncton.
“They’ve committed to spend $2 million and they would not have done that in 2020 when they were talking about closing the hospital,” he added.
“That’s a huge shift in direction at the very top and I think your group can take…credit for having persuaded them of it,” Evans told Higham.
To read the background document from the Rural Health Action Group, click here.